What is the best way to create a small garden space with seating?

Our backyard is small, but the one plus we have is that there is a very large maple tree that provides a lot of shade from the summer sun. We have wanted to create a small garden space with a bench under the shade of the maple tree, but are unsure about what types of flowers and other plants would grow best there. We have envisioned some stone pavers that would take you on a path from our deck down a gentle slope to our shaded area. Would we then continue with the pavers to make a small patio with a seating area and some plants/flowers in pots, or something more like a small flower garden? We would truly appreciate some expert advice from those who have done this for themselves.

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